Scoundrel’s Wife

Marie-Louise Allard’s married life lasted only 13 years. In that time, she produced eight children, helped her husband start a business, and dealt with 17 different court battles.

Eventually, paying a series of claims against her husband took everything Marie-Louise had—their land, their building and all their furniture. It was all sold on June 14, 1774 to pay her husband’s debts. Marie-Louise and her children had to move in to the Notre Dame poor house. Her 32nd birthday took place there the following December.

Her former husband, Jean-Baptiste Mathieu Arial, was long gone by then. The scoundrel abandoned his family and left Canada in the autumn of 1773, when their youngest child Michel was only three months old.

The couple’s life together hadn’t started out so badly.

Jean and Marie-Louise were married by a missionary priest Father Morisseaux on July 13, 1761, two years after Quebec City surrendered to the British and the government of New France moved to Montreal. With her families’ help, they bought land and sent up a small inn on rue de la Montagne. Their daughter Marie Louise was born five months after the wedding. Their first son and a daughter eventually died, but six children survived, two into their sixties.

If the court cases are accurate, while Marie-Louise took care of their children, Jean specialized in getting inn-goers drunk so that he could scam them out of land and money.

She had had no warning of her husband’s character when they married.

Marie-Louise was 18 years old when she married a newcomer to Charlesbourg. She and her family all believed the story Jean told to the priest who married them. He told them he had just come from spending four years in a British jail, which I very readily believe.

The rest of the story may or may not be true.

The wedding record says that Jean was a “fils mineur” (underage son) of Charles Arial and Marie Moreau, which implies he was younger than 25 years old. Yet Marcel Founier’s records in Fichier Origine show Jean Arial’s birth in France as February 5, 1735. If that’s true, he would have been 26 years old the day he wed Marie-Louise.

Jean told the priest he was a French soldier captured by the British on the outskirts of the French colony of Cap-St-Domingue, on the island of Hispaniola, which is now known as a divided place of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Cap-St-Domingue was a French slave colony and a world source for sugar, coffee and indigo until a slave revolt in 1758 caused Britain and Spain to attack the French.

Jean’s story about four years in a British jail may well have been accurate, but the timing about St. Domingue seems tight. I can’t help but wonder whether he simply used the story as a colourful explanation for an English accent. Britain was still shipping convicts to America until 1780. He might have been one of them. We have only the notes of a priest about what he said to figure out who he was.

Five years after the wedding, Jean Ariail (his spelling, which was different than the priest’s spelling and the court case spellings) advertised in the Quebec Gazette at least three times. Two ads expressed a desire to settle his accounts and a third offered to sell a house to raise funds. In all three, Ariail said he intended to sail for Europe.

This hint at a complicated scam later detailed in a series of court cases against Arial by Aylwin, Hasen, Lee, Levesque, Struckling and others.

Many men claimed to be defrauded by Arial while they were drunk.

Meanwhile Arial or Ariaille left Quebec in October 1773. He began calling himself Jean Baptiste Ariail. He moved to Southington, a community in Hartford, Connecticut where he somehow found enough money to purchase a home. By the time his youngest daughter turned a year old, he had already met and married Hannah Rich. By March 1775, their first son was born.

By the time a third child with Hannah arrived, Marie-Louise was dead. She contracted chicken pox and died in the company of three priests in early October, 1779. Her brother Pierre became the official guardian of her children on October 21.[1]

  • [1] Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Pistard database of guardianship records, CC301, Fonds Cour supéreure, District judiciaire de Quebec, Tutelles et curatelles, SI Dossiers, D5306, the guardianship of the minors of Jean Arial (Ariaille) and Marie-Louise Allard, October  21, 1779, 3 pages,
  • Note 2: Many thanks to Mary Alice Kite and James and Lorraine Patterson for sharing their research.
  • Note 3: The Pattersons are among Ariail and Arial relatives holding a family reunion in Georgia on Saturday, June 20 at the Nails Creek Baptist Church. More info via
Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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